major scale

Definition of Major Scale:

A major scale is a series of notes characterized by its relatively happy and positive character. A major scale starts with a keynote and follows the major diatonic pattern of steps, which consists of whole steps and half steps in the following order:
I_whole_ii_whole_iii_half_IV_whole_V_whole_vi_whole_vii°_half_I (next octave)
(G -------- a --------- b -------- C --------- D --------- e --------- f------ G)


(C ___ d ___ e ___ F ___ G ___ a ___ b° ___ C)

Understanding the Major Scale Above:

  • The uppercase roman numerals signify the location of the major chords in the scale, while lowercase signifies minor chords.
  • The symbol ° indicates a diminished chord.

Compare the major scales above to their relative minor scales:

(e ___ f#° ___ G ___ a ___ b ___ C ___ D ___ e)

(a ___ b° ___ C ___ d ___ e ___ F ___ G ___ a)

Forming Major Piano Chords:
▪  Chord Types & Their Symbols
▪  Essential Piano Chord Fingering
See minor scale.

Also Known As:

  • scala maggiore (It)
  • échelle majeure (Fr)
  • Durtonleiter (Ger)

Pronunciation: may'-djer  skayl
More Musical Terms:

Learn About Enharmony:

  • The 6 Enharmonic Key Signatures
    If you’re familiar with the circle of fifths (or you just know your way around the key signatures) you may have noticed a few anomalies. Some keys – like B-sharp and F-flat major – are seemingly absent, while others go by two names
  • The Inefficient Keys
    The circle of fifths shows only the working scales. But, if we expand on its pattern, we can see that it’s actually more of an infinite spiral, so there’s no end to the possibilities of musical scales.
  • Table of Working & Non-Working Keys
    See a clear visual of which keynotes are workable and which would be redundant.


Musical Keys & Key Signatures:

  • All About Key Signatures
    Everything you need to know about the accidentals & key signatures.
  • Use the interactive key signature locator to identify or double-check your key.
  • There are always two keys that relate to one another more than any other key. Find out what this means.
  • Comparing Major & Minor
    Major and minor are often described in terms of feelings or mood. The ear tends to perceive major and minor as having contrasting personalities; a contrast that is most obvious when the two are played back to back. Learn more about major and minor scales and keys.
  • Key Signatures
    Once you get to know more about this part of notation, test yourself on the accidentals and key signatures.